Employee Development: Building Loyalty Through Retention and Engagement

RL10-06-2015During the past few decades, there has been a significant shift in how companies manage employees—and consequently—how employees manage their careers. Loyalty was once a strong retention attribute associated with successful companies, but in many circles, it is now a fleeting memory. Older generations once enjoyed long-lived careers within a single business, but this pattern has slowly been turned on its head. Now, younger workers are staying at companies for far shorter periods of time, some averaging around two years per assignment.

Economic uncertainty has forced companies to decrease staff and do more with less; and the constant need for improvement and experience has pushed workers to find different avenues for career development. However, with employee turnover costing companies nearly 150% of a worker’s salary and the growing skills gap in North America, it would benefit both businesses and employees to work together to find a happy medium. Developing employees’ career goals can be the ticket to long-lasting success and a happier, more stable workforce. But first, it’s important to understand what employers look for and what their employees want.

What employers look for

Simply put, employers look for highly skilled, engaged employees who will stay at their respected companies for a decent period of time to avoid the high cost of turnover. Above the issues of employee engagement, retention, and turnover is a fundamentally rampant issue affecting today’s job market—the skills gap. The skills gap is a term used to define the disparity between the skills required to perform a job and the skills held by the general workforce. The skills gap is affecting all industries. For instance, a study by the Manufacturing Institute found that over the next 10 years, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled in the U.S. alone. But as Baby Boomers retire, and younger workers lack the skills and training to fill these positions, nearly 2 million of these jobs will remain vacant. Employers need workers who will be able to step up and perform when this generation retires.

What employees want

In a survey by Jumpstart-HR, a Washington, D.C.-based human resource company, both employed and unemployed workers were asked what they look for first in a job. Coming in first beating out compensation/benefits, company culture, and company brand, was opportunities for growth and professional development. Additionally, the 2015 SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement report found that 42% of the workforce views an organization’s commitment to professional development as very important, yet only 23% are currently satisfied with their companies’ development policies. The disconnect between the two may be a harbinger to employees looking for opportunities elsewhere to fulfill their development needs.

The importance of development

Ensuring employers have workers with the right skills to maintain high productivity—and achieving employees’ career growth goals—are possible by developing current employees. Having an internal career development program is the perfect bridge to the growing skills gap and much-needed anchor for the restless, young employee. Harvard Business Review asked young leaders on a scale from one to five (five being the most important) how they would rank mentoring and coaching. The survey averaged a “four,” yet the service they currently received from their companies received below a “three.” They also found that 75% of these employees were actively seeking employment elsewhere. Alarmingly, 95% of those surveyed who were actively involved in networking activities left their companies after only 28 months on the job. The importance of career coaching and developing employees is not just an answer to a retention problem; the lack of it could be causing the problem.

Loyalty achieved for both parties

At the end of the day, employees want to feel valued, and companies want loyalty through consistent productivity. Spending time and resources on mentoring, coaching, and developing your employees can ensure both parties are satisfied. Consider a few of the following to jumpstart a culture of growth in your company:

  • Mentoring program: The wealth of knowledge and experience from your senior leadership, as well as long-term employees, can promote growth and productivity in your younger, less-seasoned employees. Pair one with the other and encourage the two to meet weekly or monthly to discuss issues and career advice.
  • Technical training: Sometimes the skills required for the position you’re looking for are hard to come by. Instead of spending time and money looking outside the company for a particular position, consider sending a current employee to a technical school to learn the skills of the trade. By investing in them now, they will invest in you later.
  • Work-related conferences: We all hit a wall sometimes and need to kick start our motivation. Conferences are great ways to do this. By interacting with likeminded professionals and attending job-related breakout sessions, employees come back refreshed and eager to apply what they learned and a newfound excitement in their everyday job.
  • Continuing education: No one is too old to learn or too educated to grow, so having a program that subsidizes job-specific graduate degrees is a great way to develop your future leaders. Whether the company pays a portion of the school tuition or offers a monetary bonus program for achieving specific degrees, having employees in the classroom can help the company stay on the cutting edge of their specific industry.

Every business in todays marketplace is dealing with the same issues you are: retention, engagement, and turnover. You are not alone. However, if you start investing in your employees and developing employees’ career goals, you can set yourself up as a leader in your industry and gain the competitive advantage in your market. And who knows, the top talent who look outside their current companies for other opportunities for growth and advancement might just find them with you.

How are you developing your employees? What are you doing to close the skills gap at your company? Let us know in the comments section below!

2 Responses to Employee Development: Building Loyalty Through Retention and Engagement

  1. Charles Paschali October 6, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    Enjoyed reading your information. I’m 63 (semi retired) with 3 sons, now in their 30s.
    Gainfully employed. Your observations thru study are true and both sides need to take note of the “skills gap”. Employers need to do more to retain their talent, and younger people should make longer commitments to see benefits materialize.


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